A Teenage Girl’s Everyday Fight to Survive

My Personal Fight:

As a young woman who has grown up in a media obsessed generation, I learned from an early age that our physical features are what give us value. Middle school was a turning point for me as this was the first time I started noticing things about myself. My nose was too big, my thighs too chunky, and my hair too crazy. Although my parents screened most of the movies and television I watched, there wasn’t as much they could do about the constant bombardment of advertisements. I distinctly remember flipping through a People magazine and having my very first, “I’m fat” moment. This thought was sparked from the media’s perpetuation of photoshopped (unattainable standards) women. It carried through into my teen years and developed into my body dysmorphia/eating disorders. I will have the effects of the disorder for the rest of my life. The media acts like it is your friend, but it can also be your worse enemy.

The Real Cost/Effect of the “Perfect Woman”:

Nowadays approximately 7 in every 100 women have dealt with eating disorders –in the U.S. alone (Get The Facts On Eating Disorders, para. 1-16). After the creation of the internet, our society changed to become media dependent. We check our phones first thing in the morning, and they’re the last thing we look at before we go to bed. Are our phones are full of funny pictures, communications to friends, and even the ability to work from home. But, now, they give access to cyber-harassment and “pro-ana” websites that support the rise in eating disorders (Social media used to encourage anorexia and bulimia, 2013, para 1-12). Girls aspire to look like the women in advertisements/films without knowing how much editing went into the images. Figure 1 shows just how much photoshop can change a woman’s appearance.

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figure 1

Girls are turning eating disorders into a competition to see who can starve themselves the most and are posting “thinspiration” to keep up with their dangerous lifestyle. Can society actually blame these “attention seeking” girls for trying to achieve the unachievable through eating disorders; when they don’t understand their damage?

Over the last few decades, the media has continuously changed the standards for the ideal woman. As her figure has slimmed, eating disorders have rapidly increased (Judd, 2011, p. 249). Social media has also caused a recent push towards women’s dissatisfaction towards their bodies because of the easy access to compare yourself. A study found that 70-94% of college girls wanted to lose weight, 60% have the classic behaviors of an eating disorder, and 8-20% suffer from the disorders. This statistic is disturbing considering it is much higher than the 7% national average. Young girls find their role models in pop-stars and actors, they look up to them for fashion, entertainment, and envy their beauty. While these girls starve themselves to look like these stars, they don’t realize that even these people are photoshopped. Figure 2 illustrates the photoshopping of Brittany Spears in her music video.

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figure 2

People suffering from anorexia have a 4% chance of dying, therefore making it the highest mortality rate of any other mental disorder (“Eating Disorder Statistics & Research”, n.d., para 3-5).

Thankfully, there are others that are striving towards a more diverse view of beauty.

Dove has been fighting for years to bring about self-worth in women. I found the comparison (fig. 1) of a photoshopped before and after image a startling look into the fashion industry. Victoria Secret released a controversial campaign of the “perfect body” (fig. 3)  bra. In response, Dove created their own campaign celebrating what real women looked like –and how every”body” is beautiful  (fig. 4). Not only does the Dove photo show diversity in their figures, but in their ethnicity as well.

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figure 3

 

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figure 4

Aerie recently created an ad campaign that didn’t retouch their images, additionally the girls in the pictures even had more diverse body shapes (fig. 5). Along with mass media advertisement, they launched “aeriereal” a social-media campaign that shows what real women look like. I think these two are working towards a push to a brighter future, but, we need everyone to take a stand towards the deceit that is in our media.

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figure 5

Instead of turning to eating disorders to improve your self-esteem (which eating disorders never help), find outlets through support groups, healthy living, and push for a change in the media. One day, maybe, the media will altogether promote real beauty but until then educate yourself. Stop striving for what the media considers “perfect” because that doesn’t exist. Instead, work to be the beautiful person who you are.

References:

Eating Disorder Statistics & Research. (n.d.). Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/social-media-anorexia-bulimia

Eating Disorders among College Students. (2011). In S. J. Judd (Ed.), Health Reference Series. Eating Disorders Sourcebook (3rd ed., pp. 125-127). Detroit: Omnigraphics. Retrieved from http://db24.linccweb.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.db24.linccweb.org/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=lincclin_spjc&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX1729300042&asid=6ee579a8620b08c3fa6d6984444a71a3

Figure 1. Timelapse Of Model Photoshopped To Barbie Proportions. (2013, November 01). Retrieved from http://geekologie.com/2013/11/timelapse-of-model-photoshopped-to-barbi.php

Figure 2. BR. Admin. (2014, March 12). Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds. Retrieved from http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshopping-altering-images-and-our-minds/

Figure 3. Dwyer, L. (2014, October 31). Women Strike Back Against Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect “Body”’ Campaign. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/10/31/striking-back-against-victorias-secret-perfect-body-campaign

Figure 4. Bahadur, N. (2014, February 26). Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign Turns 10: How A Brand Tried To Change The Conversation About Female Beauty. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/21/dove-real-beauty-campaign-turns-10_n_4575940.html

Figure 5. Krupnick, E. (2014, January 17). Aerie’s Unretouched Ads ‘Challenge Supermodel Standards’ For Young Women. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/aerie-unretouched-ads-photos_n_4618139.html

Get The Facts On Eating Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders

Greater social media use tied to higher risk of eating and body image concerns. (2016, May 23). Mental Health Weekly Digest, 14. Retrieved from http://db24.linccweb.org/login?url=http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/NewsDetailsPage/NewsDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=false&displayGroupName=News&currPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=OVIC&search_within_results=&p=OVIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CA452912062&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=&source=Bookmark&u=lincclin_spjc&jsid=7830f76d0bcdcf1453fb8f3dce0e1193

Media Influence and Eating Disorders. (2011). In S. J. Judd (Ed.), Health Reference Series. Eating Disorders Sourcebook (3rd ed., pp. 248-250). Detroit: Omnigraphics. Retrieved from http://db24.linccweb.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.db24.linccweb.org/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=lincclin_spjc&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX1729300080&asid=0cf7e52878a2862e7999ec755bc5ab59